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Dr. Alissa C Zuchman, Director, 847-291-7788

Wednesday, November 8, 2023 – 25 Heshvan 5784 How to Handle Difficult Topics in the Classroom

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The world is silent and loud at the same time. This is how I am experiencing life around me. It has been more than 30 days since awakening to a terror attack against innocent Israelis. I am still in disbelief watching with horror how so many can believe that innocent people deserve to die. The excuses and justification for this hatred hurt my heart. For the very first time in my life, I am anxious to pull out a Jewish textbook to read in public. Recently, when I met a new person and they asked what I do for a living, I paused before answering, not sure what the reaction would be to my responding that I am a Jewish educator, not just an educator. I am thankful his response was, “This must be a very hard time for you, I’m sorry.” It was nice to have it acknowledged but I don’t like how this feels. The lump remains in my throat each day.

The war in Israel/Gaza and the rise in anti-Semitism both globally and locally makes it important to find safe spaces to be able to reflect on the fear, anger, and sorrow that we might be feeling. The work of supporting our learners who may not have a deep connection to Israel, as well as understanding that Jewish professionals, have vastly different viewpoints about how the war should be handled is the balance we strive to provide. Finding ways to listen without judgment seems impossible, but entirely necessary, especially when the young people we are meant to nurture do not necessarily share our points of view. Loving Israel does not mean that we can’t find sympathy for innocent lives being lost.

I know I’m not alone, and there are many good people and organizations wanting to help. Please seek the knowledge to help you get through these difficult times as well as how to approach the subject with your learners. JTeach is available to discuss and listen.


Alissa C Zuchman, PhD